DENVER—Global warming pollution in Colorado jumped 221 pecent between 1960 and 2001, according to “The Carbon Boom,” a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Colorado. Increased coal emissions and oil emissions were responsible for 50 percent and 35 percent of this increase, respectively
“When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. To protect future generations from the effects of global warming, we need to stop this trend of increasing pollution,” said Emily Francis, Outreach Director for Environment Colorado.
Existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies could substantially reduce global warming pollution, but the federal government has so far rejected mandatory pollution limits.
Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environment Colorado’s new report examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel combustion nationally and by state between 1960 and 2001, the most recent year for which state-by-state data are available. Major findings of the report include:
Colorado emitted 27.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1960; by 2001, the state’s emissions had grown to 87.8 million metric tons, an increase of 221 percent.
Nationwide, emissions of carbon dioxide nearly doubled between 1960 and 2001, jumping from 2.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1960 to almost 5.7 billion metric tons in 2001, an increase of 95 percent.
A dramatic growth in oil combustion mostly in the transportation sector and coal combustion mainly for electricity generation fueled the rapid increase in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 1960 and 2001. Increased coal and oil combustion each accounted for 40 percent of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
In Colorado, increased coal combustion – primarily to generate electricity – accounted for 50 percent of the state’s increase in carbon dioxide emissions from 1960 to 2001. Coal has the highest carbon content of any fossil fuel, meaning that burning coal for electricity produces more carbon per unit of energy than does burning oil or natural gas. Over the four decades analyzed, as demand for electricity boomed, Colorado added 4,751 megawatts of new coal-burning power plant capacity. Increased combustion of oil and natural gas contributed 33 percent and 17 percent, respectively, of the state’s growth in emissions from 1960 to 2001.
The early effects of global warming are evident in Colorado and worldwide. According to NASA, 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded. Left unchecked, global warming threatens to
· cause serious future water shortages in Colorado, as our snowpack-fed rivers and streams dry up.
· cause more frequent and extreme droughts in Colorado, as warmer temperatures evaporate moisture in the soil more quickly.
The U.S. could substantially reduce its global warming pollution by using existing technologies to make power plants and cars more efficient and increase the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, noted Francis. “These are win, win solutions because they also would reduce our dependence on oil, reduce air pollution, protect pristine places from oil drilling and mining, and save consumers money,” she said.
“In 2004, Colorado residents passed a landmark initiative—Amendment 37—which will increase our renewable energy to 10 percent by 2015. Thanks to Environment Colorado for continuing to forge ahead and encourage Colorado to reduce even more CO2 emissions,” added Ron Larson, founder of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES).
Oil companies – led by ExxonMobil – automakers, and most electric utilities continue to fight common sense solutions to global warming, Francis pointed out. For instance, ExxonMobil gave at least $15 million between 1998 and 2004 to groups working to confuse the public about the broad scientific consensus on the causes of and solutions to global warming.
On Monday, Rep. Henry Waxman (CA) introduced the Safe Climate Act, which provides a long-term, science-based solution to global warming. The bill requires the U.S. to reduce its global warming pollution by 15 percent from today’s levels by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. To achieve these targets, the bill calls for improved energy efficiency and a greater reliance on clean, renewable energy sources, while providing companies flexibility in meeting the pollution-reduction goals through a “cap-and-trade” program.
“Our state and national leaders must take decisive action to stop the worst effects of global warming. We are calling on all our Colorado congressional delegation to cosponsor the Safe Climate Act and we applaud Senator Salazar for urging President Bush to support real reductions in global warming pollution,” concluded Francis.